5 ways to cope with stress during exam season

By Cheyenne Bholla

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If you’re in university or college, you’re probably extremely stressed right now because all of your final papers, assignments and exams are aligning like the stars.

You’ve probably seen one of the many posts and articles about how to cope with stress, but now you have come to the final destination. Here you will learn the REAL tips.

Here are a few ways you can reduce stress before your exams.

Awareness and Mindfulness

Researchers found that when participants committed to an eight-week program of mindfulness, group discussion, and daily homework assignments, stress levels were reduced.

Mindfulness emphasized being aware of and living in the present. This may pose a problem for many students that have on-the-go lives. However, taking a step back and analyzing your situation could help.

If you’re always thinking into the future, whether it be to tests, exams, or essays, you’re going to overwhelm yourself and in some cases, this could cause you to turn to procrastination. This makes your stress worse in the long-run.

Taking a few minutes between study sessions or after you wake up to focus on your breathing and bodily sensations can help to keep you calm and in the moment, at least for a bit.

In the study, participants reported that the meditation helped them to get a new perspective on their academic career as a whole. The focus flipped from “driven by avoidance, to develop mastery” in their field.

This mindset is extremely important as it keeps your learning intentions in the right place. Down the line, it will ensure that you actually know what you’re doing on the job, whether you’re a doctor or a teacher.

In addition, another recent study found that mandala and free colouring both shown a decrease in anxiety amongst post-secondary students.

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Researchers suggested that mandala colouring was more effective in elevating state mindfulness because the structured circular design gives students a sense of direction, attention, awareness and organization.

Employ Good Study Habits

Having good study habits is vital to reducing your exam stress. By understanding the best way to study for YOU, you’ll be able to get in “the zone” and study for hours on end.

According to KidsHelpLine, some helpful study habits are: finding a good environment to study in, figuring out as much as you can on what will be tested in advance, and using mind maps.

Study Environment

Some people need to be locked away in a closet with pure silence in order to study whereas others need a little chatter in the background to focus. Figure out the environment that you work best in, and when you really need to dig deep in the books, put yourself in those spaces. One thing that will help everyone is turning your phone and laptop on do not disturb.

Ask Questions

It may be hard to approach your professor and ask questions in a lecture hall of a hundred people, but take advantage of office hours. Teachers are a resource in your education, so if you don’t fully know what you’re being tested on or there’s concepts you don’t understand, go to your professor. You’re not paying thousands of dollars to go home and google the things you learn in class. Always ask questions.

Mind Maps

If you have trouble organizing your thoughts, use mind maps to lay out all the information you’re studying while making connections where possible. Bright colours to signify links can help with memorization.


It may be hard to keep up with a to-do list, but time management skills are important. Prioritize your time on the most important assignments and papers, and break them down into smaller tasks. This will put less pressure on finishing the whole assignment at once, and you’ll probably finish quicker. Also make sure to take occasional breaks. Giving yourself incentives will train you to finish tasks on time. With each study accomplishment, treat yourself to something, like ten minutes of play time with your pet, or a bowl of fresh fruit.

Eat Proper Meals

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I know everyone reading this is probably rolling their eyes because of the tendency for self-care articles to imply that drinking water solves all of your problems.

It’s not completely inconclusive that water affects cognitive functioning, but dehydration can cause poor concentration, short-term memory problems and moodiness.

Skipping the junk food for nutritional snacks is also important. Make sure to eat a balanced meal with vegetables, protein and grain for a good source of energy.

Avoid Stimulants

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Drinking stimulants, such as coffee or energy drinks to pull your all-nighters may seem like it’s helping you in the moment. However in reality, the come-down will leave you feeling more tired and burnt out than you were in the first place.

Coffee can also worsen anxiety and trigger panic attacks, not to mention their effects on your health.

Packed with sugar and caffeine, there’s no evidence that energy drinks are more effective than other caffeinated drinks at maintaining high energy levels and improving cognitive function.

Get a Full Night’s Sleep

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Though you may be tempted to pull all-nighters in order to cram all the semester’s concepts into your brain, its effects reflect the opposite of what you hope.

The non-Rapid Eye Movement phase (non-REM) of deep sleep is known as slow-wave sleep (SWS). SWS allows communication in different parts of your brain that strengthen your ability to form and retain memories, such as vocabulary or grammar.

Rather than trying to make these connections on a sleep-deprived brain, you should review the topics, do questions, and have a full-night’s sleep.

Although power naps have shown positive results in children, it’s also important for memory and learning throughout one’s life.

Getting a full night’s rest will help to improve cognitive function and memory, both of which you’ll probably need for your evaluations.

All images courtesy Pixabay